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Thursday, 28 August 2014

For the Record: A Brief Appearance by the Barratt Typewriter

The Barratt, an aborted 1915 attempt to built a British version of the German Stoewer Record.
Just before the outbreak of World War One, 100 years ago this month, Charles Spiro’s Columbia Typewriter Manufacturing Company decided to end production of the Bar-Lock in the US and sell all its patents, trademarks and tools to the (British) Bar-Lock Typewriter Company, makers of the Royal Bar-Lock. However, the British company, run by William James Richardson (1863-1949) and his sons Donald Southwell Richardson (1888-1972) and Conrad Richardson (1891-1937), had recognised downstroke typewriters were outmoded and had no intention to continue making them beyond 1914.
In May of that year, the Richardsons had commissioned ace typewriter design engineer Herbert Etheridge to begin designing a frontstroke typewriter for them. At the same time, the Richardsons announced they would build a factory in Nottingham to produce the new "all-British" Bar-Lock. (The war delayed things, the plant was not completed until 1919 and the frontstroke Bar-Lock first appeared in 1921.)
Upon becoming aware of these plans, the Rimingtons, arch British rivals of the Richardsons, hatched their own scheme - to produce the "first British built frontstroke standard typewriter". Trouble was, it wasn't a British design - it was to be no more than a British version of the German Stoewer Record (aka the Swift), launched in an updated form in 1912.
It was in part to be backed, according to Typewriter Topics, by the British Government. But the major financier, Thomas James Barrattthe chairman of soap manufacturer A&F Pears and "the father of modern advertising", died aged 72 in Greater London on April 28, 1914, leaving £405,564 16 shillings and six pence, none of it earmarked for the Rimingtons or their projected typewriter enterprise. To top it all off, on August 4 Britain declared war on Germany. The Barratt typewriter was doomed before it ever even got off the ground.
Thomas J.Barratt
In early 1914 the Rimingtons - brothers George Garthwaite Rimington (1874-1951) and Walter Rimington (1879-1941), the sons of British Blickensderfer agent John McNay Rimington (1841-1908) - had found themselves in a very similar position to the Richardsons. George Canfield Blickensderfer had from December 1913 increasingly leaned toward a conventional typebar machine (the Blick-Bar), and the Rimingtons saw that they too had to move with the times. Thus the arrangement with Stoewer to make its Paul Grützmann-designed standard in England, by expanding their Cheapside, London, plant further down the road.
Paul Grützmann
The "preliminary announcement" of the Barratt - "now in the process of manufacture" - was made in March 1915, and selling agents were called for across the globe. But that's as far as the Barratt typewriter project ever went. The Rimingtons instead went on to make the British Blick, the British and the British Empire, using the manufacturing facilities of George Salter and Co in West Bromwich.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Too Late, He Cried! A Lament for the Late Remington Riviera Portable Typewriter

Someone out there has taken pity on me. They've reckoned that Richard Polt has been hogging all the mysterious mail from the Typosphere.
My own mystery started the week before last when John Paul Moloney, chief of staff of The Canberra Times, contacted me through Facebook: "We still get occasional mail for you, including a pretty cool postcard this week. Can you flick me your postal address and we'll send it on."
I got around to answering JP's message earlier this week and today the postcard arrived.
The mysterious "someone" - and I might be thick but I have absolutely no idea who it might be (it's postmarked Hobart) - has gone to a lot of trouble (except they apparently don't know that I have been gone from The Canberra Times for 22 months now). The postcard is elaborately and carefully designed (in the colours of the Remington Riviera portable typewriter), artistic, almost poetic, possibly even prophetic - and spookily insightful.
The card reads: "Hi Rob. Although I've been long awestruck by your typewriterly wisdom, I'd ask that you reconsider the Remington Riviera. That maverick Carl Sundberg designed the Riviera not for 20th or 21st centuries but for the 22nd. Come the year 2101 the Riviera's 'flaws' will start making sense."
Had I replied to JP last week, I might still have my Riviera. Armed with this postcard's prophecy, I might have hung on to it, with a renewed appreciation for the thing, given this long-term forecast for its future.
But no.
On Friday, the Riviera was one of 43 portable typewriters to leave this house, never to return.
The lady who took it asked, "Are you sure you want to let this go?"
"Out damned Riviera," I declared. "Never let it brighten my door again."
I hadn't missed it at all. Until this postcard arrived today. And then only for a second or two.
After the 43 portables left here last Friday, I did a quick "inventory" and worked out that I wanted to hold on to 80 typewriters and let the remaining 290 go.
There will be a lot more empty spots on the shelves in the coming weeks and months. The Riviera, I'm afraid, was just the beginning.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Remtor Portable Typewriters

I suppose Remtor portable typewriters could at best be described as a sub-species: rebranded Torpedo models made during the period of Remington's control of Weil-Werke GmbH's typewriter arm in Frankfurt am Main-Rödelheim from 1932 (as Remington Buromaschinen GmbH).
No doubt these Remtor machines are to be easily found for sale online on European sites, but in Australia they are quite unusual. So I've been surprised to be contacted by two Australian readers in the past fortnight, both asking about their Remtor portables (which, incidentally, may be for sale - contact me for details).
My own Remtor (above) was imported from Hungary, where it was originally sold (by Magyarországi Vvezérképviselet Irógép Korlátolt Felelõsségû Társaság, Budapest; it has a Hungarian keyboard, as Bence Sebestyén pointed out at the time), and I posted on it in December 2012. I found it an excellent machine to use, but it too is for sale now. It is a Torpedo 17, and was first marketed as a Deutsche Remington Junior in 1933. Alan Seaver has a lovely yellow-keytopped example of the Deutsche Remington in his Machines of Loving Grace collection:
The latest of the two which have popped up out of the woodwork in Australia is interesting because it says Remtor Junior on the paper plate and Remington Schrijfmachine Mij NV on the front right above the keyboard, which would indicate it was sold in Holland (but, I would think, unlikely to have been made there). I can't make out what it says on the shift and shift lock keys, but, like mine, it has a QWERTY keyboard:
The second Remtor to emerge in this country is even more interesting, in that it is a green-keytopped early model Torpedo 18 called a Remtor De Luxe. The keyboard might be Bulgarian? ("Veliko" is on the shift key.) This is the first time I have seen the 1936 model Torpedo as a Remtor:
Here are my Torpedo versions of this same model (also both for sale):

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sufferin' Suffragettes! Typewriters in the Fight for Women's Rights

These women, using Oliver, Royal and Royal Bar-Lock typewriters, are volunteers assisting the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the union's fight for women's suffrage in Britain in September 1911.
The posters and photographs adorning the office give some clue as to the esteem in which the suffragette leaders were held. On the far left is a poster of WSPU co-founder Christabel Pankhurst and above the mantelpiece is a framed photograph of Christabel's mother, suffragette pioneer Emmeline Pankhurst, below which is a marble bust, also of Emmeline. But apparently Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst was the typist in the family.
Given Australia and New Zealand were at this time "the colonies" being dragged along by the apron strings of "Mother England", it is interesting to note that New Zealand had 18 years earlier given all adult women the right to vote (becoming, in 1893, the first country in the world to do so) and South Australia had followed suit in 1895. Indeed, Henrietta Augusta Dugdale (above) formed the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society 130 years ago. So much for Britain being the "home of modern democracy"!
More like the home of a "Modern Inquisition". The fight for full suffrage in Britain went on until 1928.
In 1913 the WSPU moved its headquarters from Clement's Inn on The Strand in London (where the photograph at the top of this post was taken) to Lincoln's Inn House, Kingsway. In April of that year the Lincoln's Inn offices were raided by police, and the WSPU workers arrested, charged and in most cases given lengthy jail sentences for conspiracy.
Those jailed included the lady sitting at the back right in the image at the top of this post, the WSPU general office manager Harriett Roberta Kerr (1859-1940). She had been a professional typist running her own secretarial business office in the City of London (that is, central London), when in September 1906 she closed the business to join the WSPU.
The images below were taken at the WSPU's Clement's Inn headquarters in September 1911 and show the WSPU workers producing the union's posters and other publications.
Another typewriter company manager who became an WSPU organiser was Flora McKinnon Drummond (1878-1949), nicknamed "The General" for her habit of leading women's rights marches wearing a military style uniform with an officers cap and epaulettes and riding on a large horse. Drummond was imprisoned nine times for her activism in the women's suffrage movement.
Drummond, centre, in the docks in October 1908 with Christabel Pankhurst, left, and Emmeline Pankhurst, right.
On leaving high school on the Isle of Arran at 14, Drummond moved to Glasgow to take a business training course at a civil service school. Prevented from becoming a postmistress because she was an inch too short at 5ft 1in, she went on to gain a Society of Arts qualification in shorthand and typing. Drummond was working in the typewriter business in Manchester when she joined the WSPU in 1906. She became known for her daring and headline-grabbing stunts, including in 1906 slipping inside the open door of 10 Downing Street and hiring a boat so she could approach the Palace of Westminster from the River Thames.
More Oliver typewriters are put to work in the women's cause. This is the Clement's Inn secretary's office of Lady Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867-1954), a member of the Suffrage Society who as business manager and treasurer of the WSPU raised £134,000 over six years. 
Pethick-Lawrence (above) started the publication Votes for Women  in 1907. She was arrested and imprisoned in 1912 for conspiracy following demonstrations that involved breaking windows. 
Another leading British suffragette was Australian-born Marion Phillips (1881-1932), seen above in 1908. Born in St Kilda, Melbourne, in July 1904 Phillips went to England and became immersed in the working-class and women's movements through her membership of the Fabian Society, the Independent Labour Party, the Women's Labour League, the Women's Trade Union League, for which she was briefly an organiser, and several suffrage societies. By 1914 she was effectively running the Women's Labour League and edited The Labour Woman. In 1926 Phillips was nominated by the Durham Women's Advisory Council and the Monkwearmouth miners as a prospective Labour Party candidate for Sunderland. Returned in 1929, she unsuccessfully recontested the seat in 1931. By this time she was already ill with the stomach cancer which caused her death in London in 1932. Phillips was the first Australian woman to win a seat in a national parliament, and the only one to have been elected to the House of Commons.
Above, US National Women's Party, Washington DC, 1919. Below, the NWP press room in 1915, with Alice Paul on the right:
The NWP was founded by Paul and Lucy Burns in 1913. After their baptism into militant suffrage work in Britain, Paul and Burns reunited to the US in 1910 and were appointed to the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. After the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote in 1920, the NWP turned its attention to passage of an Equal Rights Amendment  to the Constitution. 
 Alice Paul
Lucy Burns
Below, the NWP publishing office in 1916:
Abby Scott Baker, NWP 1916: